The Auditor general is mandated by the constitution of Uganda to audit and report on public accounts; that is all public offices and any public corporation established by an act of Parliament. This is substantiated by the National audit Act, 2008 in sections 13 and 19. Article 163(4) of the constitution that further requires the Auditor annually to present a report to Parliament for the financial year immediately preceding.
In the last 3 audit reports tabled in Parliament, the Auditor General pointed out the issue of understaffing in a number of public institutions. Accountability committees during their probes into the expenditure of public monies disbursed have queried this issue, it has almost become rhetoric. This notwithstanding Government has on a number of occasions insisted on exporting labor. Of course there is the argument that government cannot afford all the staff it requires in its institutions, this is valid. But has the government stopped to reflect about the conditions that the exported labor works in? Has it done enough for the unemployed in Uganda?
On November 27, 2015, the Observer, a renowned Ugandan newspaper ran a story on a on a one Sarah Namutebi (not real names) who had just returned from Dubai where she had been employed as a domestic worker. Namutebi told of the ordeal she faced while abroad and how she was hoodwinked into believing she was going to make an honest living in the “land of Gold.” Namutebi is just the tip of the iceberg, many Ugandans have had the same experience working abroad especially in Asian countries. Despite such stories, many young Ugandans have not been deterred from seeking these opportunities and with Uganda’s loose policy on the welfare of exported labor there is nothing stop them.
Parliament has raised a red flag on the matter time and again. The Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) raised the issue through a petition tabled by the Kasilo County MP, Okupa Elijah back in 2012. In 2014, Nakasongola Woman MP Margaret Komuhangi moved the House to consider slapping a moratorium on the export of Ugandan girls and women to work as maids. Most recently, Speaker Rebecca after a trip to Saudi Arabia demanded that the government gives Parliament a detailed explanation of its plan to protect Ugandans working in Saudi Arabia or else ban the entire practice. Noteworthy is that government hasn’t tabled this report yet on the floor of Parliament.
Contrary to this, the coordinator of the External Employment Unit (EEU) in the labor Ministry, Milton Turyasiima, said the speaker’s proposal to stop the deal is not feasible because there is no law that can be used to enforce it. He points Article 28 and 29 of the Constitution gives freedom to move and work anywhere. He erred in using the articles in isolation, Chapter four should be looked at in its entirety, protection of rights.
Uganda has cheap labor comparable to those in china, therefore, government should exploit this. The situation in Uganda is; the government borrows from China for various reasons and again goes ahead to import expatriates to do jobs that Ugandans would otherwise do. This does not benefit us very much and yet a number of graduates that universities annually release can ably feed into these institutions. It is only then that the surplus can be exported. Ugandan graduates should have a choice, this is what the constitution means in Article 29, going abroad to live in squalor should not be the only choice.
Uganda should look at its strong points, for example, the cheap labor and high population, Agriculture, its comparative advantage in the production of cotton, coffee, and other organic produce, and use this to create employment. Overhaul the education system to allow vocational as well as theoretical learning. With such pro-employment policies, unemployed youth can ably improve their welfare and it is only then that this debacle of modern day slavery will end.